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Did Cricket unite or divide

Indians? Discuss with
examples from the past and

By:- Rahul Singh (B14121)

The most popular Indian pastime- no, its not street
food, not Bollywood.Were speaking of the most
thrilling pastime of it all- The Indian Cricket!

Cricket has a known history beginning in the late 16th

century. It became the England's national sport in the 18th
century and has developed globally in the 19th and 20th
centuries. In its infancy, cricket was very much an English
sport but later it started spreading in british colonies
including India where it is famous till date.

I used to hate England because they ruled my

country, but I am happy that they gave us the game of
cricket, which they can't play very well, and the
english language which I cant speak very well
- Kapil Dev

These words by great Indian Cricketer Kapil Dev itself

suggest that India has a very old relation with British and
cricket. The first definite reference to cricket being played
anywhere in the sub-continent is a report of English sailors
of the East India Company written in 1737. It refers to
cricket being played at Cambay, near Baroda in 1721. The
Calcutta Cricket and Football Club was known to be in
existence by 1792, but was possibly founded more than a
decade earlier.
Since the English played the game, all the important
English spots- Calcutta, Madras and Bombay became
cricketing zones. Cricket clubs started getting formed all
over the country. But the clubs were all-white clubs with a
bunch of English playing against each other.
Then slowly the wealthy Indians started playing the game.
Whatever the English did was cool back then, so if
they played cricket, so would the other cool folks in
The first to play with the English were the Parsis of
Mumbai in 1850s. They also became the first Indians to
tour England in 1886 and then also in 1888 but lost most
of the matches.The Parsis and English used to have
regular tournaments in Bombay.
Soon after Parsis, the Hindu Maharajas started forming
their own teams and wanted to compete with these parsis.
A Hindu cricketing club, Bombay Union, was formed in
Bombay and a triangular series was also started in
Bombay between parsis, hindus and europeans. Hindu
cricketers sorted themselves along the lines of caste and
region of origin.
Now, of course, Muslims too wanted to compete and the
famous muslim families took the lead: Tyebjee, Luxmani.
This led to the start of the Bombay Quadrangular series in
1912. But even then, many sections of Indians were left
out in this communal cricket. So all the others joined as a
group called The Rest. Thus we had the Bombay
Pentangular series in 1937.

Back then in India competitive cricket was organized

along communal lines which meant each community
wanted their best player to compete overlooking the
caste divisions. The best example of it was the case of
Babaji Palwankar Baloo commonly known as Palwankar

Baloo was the first member of the Dalit (also known as the
"Untouchable") caste to make a significant impact on the
sport. Although being one of the finest cricketers of his
time, he was never allowed to lead the team as a captain
because of his so-called lower caste. In childhood, he
swept and rolled the pitch at a cricket club run by Parsis.
There, he was encouraged by Mr. Tross to bowl to him
(Tross) in the nets. His skill at slow left-arm bowling was
enough to encourage other members to bat against him
for practice, in particular the fine batsman Captain
J.G.Greig. Greig promised him to pay 8 annas every time
he bowled him out. Soon baloo started making more than
he earned from his job and became proficient at bowling.
Initially the Hindu club was reluctant to take him due to
lower caste but later some Telugu members argued for his
inclusion, as did Captain Greig. This seemed to settle the
matter, for Baloo was invited to play with the Hindu Club.
However he still faced discrimination by the team
Although he was never allowed to lead the team as a
captain but eventually in later years, his brother Palwankar
Vithal was made captain of the Hindu team by the Hindu
Gymkhana Club, which was seen as an impact of
changing social situations in India. Hence communal
cricket did unite the people from within the

But, on a broader picture, at the time when India was

under the British rule, Pentangular attracted growing
criticism as being divisive because of the communalism
implicit in the makeup of the teams. As a result of vast
popularity of quadrangular tournament, effects could be
seen on politics where some supported the quadrangular
while some opposed it strongly.
According to the Indian National Congress, India was one
nation and both Hindu and Muslim congress leaders
wanted players to boycott the Pentangular. This opposition
towards pentangular was strongly supported by Mahatma
Gandhi. According to him, matches between institutions
and colleges were acceptable but there was no point in
communities competing against each other.
As a result, respecting gandhis views, the hindu clubs did
stopped participating in the the pentangular for some time
but later did continue playing it until 1946 when the
communal cricket ended.

On the contrast, there were some who benefitted from

these tournaments. These included some muslim leaders
as the Communal cricket seemed to strengthen Md. Ali
Jinnahs Two Nation Theory and the parsis as they were
less in number and therefore if a national team was to be
made, there chances of getting in would reduce
Apart from them, the large crowd of the quadrangular
obviously wanted their favourite tournament to continue.

These tournaments did create a feel of rivalry amongst the

players as it was seen In 1919, when Parsis were
considered the enemy by Hindus. Also during 1930s,
when there was less Hindu and Muslim unity, audiences at
cricket matches were also divided and at the time when
nation was fighting for freedom this wasn't a good sign.
Hence cricket in earlier times had politics of its own
and it did increase differences between communities.
Communal Cricket ended when the BCCI (Board of
Cricket Control in India) ended it in 1946 and was replaced
by Zonal competition.
Cricket association started focusing more on international
cricket.1952 saw two landmark victories for us- the first
test victory against England and the first series victory
against Pakistan.

In the coming years, we were considered a force to be

reckoned with on home territory. We had legends like
Tiger Pataudi, Bishan Singh Bedi, EAS Prasanna,
Gundappa Viswanath and many others. 1980s brought
Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, Kris Srikkanth,
Madan Lal and a wave of cricketing masters we worship
today. India was becoming good at the game. Still, in
1983, West Indies were the thought to be the best team.
We were nowhere close. So just imagine the thrill when
Kapil and team lifted the World Cup defeating the mighty
West Indies. It was the most spectacular, most memorable
event ever.

Soon radio was launched in India which played a major

role in the popularity of cricket in India. People could now
enjoy cricket directly from their homes. Ravi Shastri,
Harsha Bhogle, Sanjay Manjrekar etc. made to the list of
famous commentators in India.
Cricket in India is no longer a communal sport. We do
have zonal tournaments like Ranji trophy which is not so
popular but main focus today is on the Indian National
Cricket team also known as the men in blue, which
includes players from all parts of India. India has lifted the
world cups in 1983 and 2011 and is one of the bests
cricket teams in the world today.

Apart from this, BCCI also conducts tournaments like the

IPL (Indian Premier League ) where players are auctioned
and each team includes players from all around the globe.
Here the players from the countries which once battled a
war against each other play together too. This shows how
cricket today is not only changing India, but the whole
world and eradicating the differences.

The crowd in these international matches itself shows how

the whole of India comes together as one to support and
cheer the team.
Every time there's a match going on, you can see the
huge crowds outside warehouse, departmental store,
retailer's shop, electronics showrooms etc. Also some
Khan doesn't care what religion Virat Kohli follows. When
he bats, he just wants him to score big. All the arch
enemies become bhai-bhai when India's playing. Even
cops on patrol want to know what the score is. They don't
care which player is from which state or which player is
what caste. They're praying for the whole team.

Today when it comes to India, we know just one

religion - cricket.


Palwankar Baloo - Wikipedia
Ramachandra Guha, A Corner of a Foreign Field: The
Indian History of a British Sport, Picador, 2002
Nation at Play: A History of Sport in India, Penguin,